By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Linda Emond
Laura Lippman is a master of mystery, suspense, and imagination. Lippman lures readers into a murder mystery in After I’m Gone. Readers become stuck in Lippman’s threaded tale, like a fly in a spider’s web. Lippman tells a back-story of a cop as an investigator of cold cases, unsolved crimes. The cop is Cuban, a man in his 60s, named Sandy.
Arriving in America as a young immigrant, Sandy grows up in a foster home, becomes a delinquent, rehabilitates in reform school, becomes a cop, marries, becomes a father of an institutionalized autistic son, loses his wife to cancer, and chooses to abandon his son. All of these details trap a reader in a web of events–examples of what happens when loved ones are gone. Sandy re-visits memories, after his wife is gone. He evaluates events of his past; he wonders about financial missteps, his transition from crime to cop; he misses his wife, and regrets abandoning his son.
Lippman writes a story about a murdered woman, a cold case investigated by Sandy as a consultant for the City of Baltimore. The cold case is 26 years old. The thread of attraction is a picture of a murdered woman in a case file. The murdered woman is a former dancer that falls in love with a married man. The married man is an unscrupulous gambler with ambition equal to the murdered woman’s drive for success.
The gambler’s wife, like the dancer, is beautiful. The gambler loves his wife but with a gambler’s weakness–the willingness to risk all for the pleasure of winning. The wife has three children, three girls raised in luxury; at least, until the gambler’s mysterious disappearance. The gambler jumps bail when arrested for what is presumed to be fraud.
At the time of the gambler’s disappearance, the dancer vanishes. The suspicion is that the dancer left with the gambler. However, the dancer is found dead, 10 years after the gambler’s failure to appear in court. The dancer is murdered some time after the gambler’s disappearance. The gambler, old friends, and his family become murder suspects.
The cold case cop gathers threads of the gambler’s, the wife’s, the three children’s, and the murdered dancer’s lives. Every character is a story of what happens–After I’m Gone. The cop, the gambler, the dancer, the friends, the wife, the children—all are affected by what happens when loved-ones are gone.
Lippman’s mystery is who murdered the dancer. Lippman’s suspense is created by the reveal, at the end of the story. Lippman’s imagination traps a reader in a writer’s woven web.